Oil Set for Worst Month Since March as Virus Hits Demand Outlook

Oil extended its biggest monthly decline since March after a surge in coronavirus infections in the U.S. and Europe dented prospects for a rebound in demand.

Futures in New York declined 0.4%, after hitting their lowest since June on Thursday. TheCovid-19 surge in the U.S. Midwest rose to a record, and the seven-day average in the Northeast reached the most since May. Elsewhere, Italy reached another daily record in virus cases, potentially facing new restrictions on movement.

Crude found some support from data showing arecord, yet temporary, surge in U.S. economic growth in the third quarter, while European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde signaled anew package of monetary stimulus in December.

  • West Texas Intermediate for December delivery fell 16 cents to $36.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 9:21 a.m. Sydney time.
    • December WTI declined $1.22 on Thursday to $36.17 a barrel.
  • Brent for December settlement lost $1.47 to end the session at $37.65 a barrel.

The demand outlook is still bleak with the European Union’s two biggest economies set toimpose month-long movement restrictions as nations across the continent post record coronavirus cases. A boost to consumption in the form of U.S. stimulus will likely have to wait until after Nov. 3, with both sides at a standstill a week out from the election. The forward market structure is also flashing warning signs, with the WTI strip for 2021 closing at its weakest level since May.

For fragile oil markets, theoutcome of next week’s U.S. election poses yet another risk: the prospect that major producer Iran may regain its role in international trade.

Meanwhile, U.S. Gulf operators are still dealing with the effects ofTropical Storm Zeta, with Royal Dutch Shell Plc shutting crude and natural gas production overnight in the Mars Corridor due to downstream impacts from the storm.

The industry continues to suffer in the face of the pandemic, with Exxon Mobil Corp.announcing plans to slash its global workforce by 15% by the end of 2022, an unprecedented culling by North America’s biggest oil explorer as it struggles to preserve dividends.

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